Though the Left will scuff and kick all the way to the Senate vote, they know that John Roberts is going to be confirmed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court sometime before the first Monday in October. Most liberals are cautiously optimistic that Roberts will be much more like O’Connor than Scalia. For them, it is an encouraging thought. They are glad, too, that President Bush did not really put it to them this time — as they would have felt if the nominee were Edith Jones or Mike Luttig.
Liberals are playing for next time, for the battle over Rehnquist’s successor, for Stevens’s, and on down the line. That is mainly why they are laboring so to define “mainstream” conservatism (read: acceptable to liberals), establish proper questioning etiquette, stake their claim to full disclosure of a nominee’s papers, etc. (There are other reasons, of course, having to do with jockeying for political position and fundraising.)
All this is pretty clear. What’s not so clear is whether conservatives are being as savvy. Yes, conservatives have to parry every thrust against Roberts. Yes, they must keep beating the drums of grassroots support for him. But the outcome is not in doubt. John Roberts is indeed going to be on the bench come October 3rd. Conservatives should also be playing mainly for next time. Even for the time when there is a Democratic president.